Friday, March 30, 2007


One of my favorite parts of a show is meeting other artists. Getting to know your neighbors, and their stories is a fun change from the day to day isolation of the studio. I enjoy that time on my own. But getting together with other members of the tribe is fun. I have yet to have a neighbor who was not friendly and interesting. A few have had a crotchety streak here and there, but they still always had a sense of humor and an interesting story. Last night was fun too, because my husband was able to join me and meet some of my neighbors.

I am in the back corner, and last night the action was in the center aisle, with the bar and desserts. But it gave me time to cruise the aisles a bit and take in some of the work. Susan Rose's blogs, The Empty Vessel, and Polymer Clay Notes had exposed me to some of the work I saw last night. It was fun to see in person the work that wowed me on her blogs. None disappointed.

Still hoping to get some pricing ideas from you for that pear. I know I have given you only a picture and dimensions to go with, but I want that gut response.....not the one that comes from knowing exactly how long it took me to make it. Four people have taken the plunge so far....they have a great chance at getting that crane! And the range is fairly broad. I will not be offended by your answers. It will help all of us in the long run get a better understanding of the pricing issue. Especially when you share some of your thinking behind the answer. It has been enlightening for me, and I think it will be for you as well. Anything I share in the future will be anonymous, so no need to fear the wrath of others. I asked for your input....honest and thoughtful if possible, or even just your gut level response, so no matter what the answer, I am prepared to hear it.

If you think I must be crazy to be doing this, trust me, I am not going to be using this information to set my prices. This is information gathering from the market side of the equation. I have turned on the comment moderation, so you can send your input through the comments, and I just will not publish your response. I want your answer to be free from the influence of others opinions. The deadline is Sunday, April 1st, midnight Eastern time. I know you have an bold, be daring, send it in!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Set Up

Yesterday was moving day, and I took a few pictures to share with you.

My van was loaded up, and I was ready to drive into Boston. Lucky for me, we had a few warm days, so the snow had melted enough to be able to drive down the driveway, and load up the car right at the garage.
I arrived at the World Trade Center without getting lost!!! I seem to have a little too much trouble at times navigating the streets of Boston. But today, things went smoothly. I was able to drive my van into the building and then unload and wheel my work over to my booth. About seven or eight trips later, everything is in the booth space ready to set up. But first I had to go park the car....
Taaa Daahh! The finished booth. The image is a bit blurry...sorry, no tripod with me. But you get the idea of what my booth looks like. Usually I do not have black drapes for my booth, but in this case the drapes were part of the package, so I figured I would go with it. The pedestals are new. I ordered them for the wholesale show from Easy Pedestal. They have a corrugated base.....lightweight....and a wood top. There is a piece of foam that inserts into the base of the pesdestal to square it up, and then there is a piece of foam attached to the wood top. When it is all set up, it is really a very nice look.
The pieces I have hung over the drapes are just table runners. They break up all that black! On the floor I have one of those mats that is like puzzle pieces that fit together, but are nice and cushiony. Over that some bamboo rugs that roll up easily and are lightweight to carry. The mat makes for happier feet....for me and for the visitors to my booth!
Tonight is the Preview show and awards. Should be fun. I hope I have enough time to go around the show and see some of the other work. I did see Elise Winters yesterday. She is right up the aisle from me. She and her husband Woody were setting up. Elise is as sweet as her work is beautiful. Today I need to find Louise Fischer Cozzi. She has donated a piece for the Klay Karma retreat, and I get to pick it up from her.
I have received three entries so far to win that crane in the Price that Pear survey. Come on. Send me your thoughts. What do you have to lose? The more data I get the better the results, ...of course the fewer people who enter, the better your chances to win that crane..... Email your thoughts to me at judy AT (substitute the @ symbol for AT, and lose the spaces). Sorry you have to actually type the address out. Spam is just awful without giving them easy access....

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Price that Pear

Last night I was working on my least favorite task. Pricing my work. I am torn between two poles when I am in the midst of pricing. On one side is the voice of my frugal mother. When we would go to a craft show together, her purchases would be work that in retrospect was probably underpriced. Of course, raising six kids will develop a strong sense of frugality in anyone! And if there was something that she had the skill to do herself, the mantra was, "I could make that". Never mind that the time to make that happen seldom existed.

On the other side is the price I "should" charge. Careful tracking and calculating my time spent, materials, overhead, profit. Crunching numbers. Neither side feels comfortable or entirely right to me. As a wise friend observed, art is somewhat like real estate. The price is in part determined by what someone is willing to pay for the piece. And there is the price for which I am willing to part with the piece. As I was taking pictures of the last piece I finished for the show it occurred to me.....I should use my blog as an opportunity to do some market research.

This is what I propose. Send me an email with your suggestion for a "fair" price for this piece. I have shown both sides of the pear. It stands about 6" high, and 4" wide and deep. The drawings of koi are done directly on the pear before it is layered with translucent clay and canework. The finish is sanded and buffed. There is no varnish, resin or other coating on the piece. It is all polymer clay other than a small piece of wire inside the stem, and a bit of glitter, embossing powder, metal leaf, and of course, the drawings.

Anyone who sends in a reasonable, thought out response will have their name entered into a drawing to win a polymer clay crane. Answers like "priceless" or $2. will not be eligible for the drawing. I will share the data with you at the end. Rather than cluttering up the comments, or having people too influenced by others suggestions in the comments, send your pricing suggestion to me in an email to judy AT I must recieve your answer by midnight, April 1st. Good luck, and thank you for taking some time to offer your thoughts.

Road Crew

I am a road crew of one. Today I need to load up the car and drive into town to set up my booth. Sometimes I wish for a road crew. They could do all the labor involved in the loading, unloading and setting up of the booth. This is my least favorite part of the business. My car will be filled to the gills with all the things needed to transform a 10 x 10 foot space into a place to display my work, conduct transactions, and package up purchases.

This is the part of doing shows that you have to experience to fully understand. I would love to have a time lapse video of the setting up of a show. Starting with the large, empty, cavernous space, showing the initial stages of marking off the booth spaces, electrical hook-up, the arrival of the artists, and the walls of the booths starting to go up, and all the displays being set up. This transformation is really pretty amazing. It is invisible to the public. And then when the show closes, the process happens in reverse. The work and the displays are packed up and taken down. Everything is loaded into cars. And in the matter of several hours it returns to the original state. A large, empty, cavernous space.

I am not the fastest or slowest at this process. But I have learned to just go at my own pace. The scariest moment I ever had was in New York City in late November at the Armory on Park Avenue. It was about 5 a.m. I had unloaded my car and parked several blocks away. I began to set up the framework for my booth. The first stages of setting up my booth involves connecting the pipes to form the ten foot square that will be the top of my booth. Short pipes are inserted into each corner, raising this square about three feet off the ground. Then pipes that are about 5' long are inserted into each corner, raising it to it's full height.

I had connected the pipes that make up the 10' square at the top of the booth. I had inserted the 3' pipes. I began to place one of the five foot pipes in their base at each corner. That was when I realized I only had three five foot sections. The show would open later that day and the other section of pipe was back home, five hours away. Panic. Absolutely. FortunatelyA booth cannot stand on three legs. Fortunately, someone who was with the Armory came to my rescue. We found a pipe that was about 6 feet long, and larger in diameter than my pipes. That and a roll of duct tape, and I was able to move forward again. One of the worst things that could happen had happened, and I had survived the moment and moved forward. Duct tape is an absolute essential if you are doing shows. That and those plastic electrical pull ties.

If I remember to bring my camera, I will take some pictures.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Time keeps ticking....

It is two days away from set up for the Crafts Boston show, and I have entered the anxiety zone. It seems to happen without fail in the few days before a show. I have a hard time deciding where to put my effort. Should I make more vessels? Should I accept that I only have a few days left and spend my time organizing, pricing, and maybe doing a bit more work for the ACRE show? What if I don't have enough work? What if I have more than enough work and I could have spent that time on something more productive in the long run?

You get the picture. Inside my head is not the place to be right now. I guess as the time ticks away the freedom of my choice is escaping as well. Each choice I make precludes something else. And if I am so busy questioning my every decision or option, am I really putting my best effort into the work that I am trying to accomplish?

I still do not have answers to my questions really. But I hope by noticing how my anxiety is affecting me I can at least manage it. Stay tuned.....

Friday, March 23, 2007

Blog Addiction

I am a blog addict. I confess. I can't seem to get on the internet without a quick visit to some of my favorite blogs. And then the list begins to grow. You start clicking on those links on the side. The next think you know another 30, ...60,...or more minutes are gone. But I continue to need my fix everyday.

One of my favorites is Polymer Clay Daily. I was lucky enough to find her blog fairly early on and I have been a regular reader ever since. As a polymer clay artist, it is fun to see all the other work that is being done out there. It is interesting how a sense of community builds up around a blog like this. Cynthia is posting all this wonderful information, but there are those in the background who are sending her links, or adding comments. Visiting her site makes me feel a bit more connected to that community.

Cynthia's blog led me to Susan Rose's two blogs. The Empty Vessel
was my first discovery. And it was love at first sight. The elegance of the whole site reflects the amazing work she has highlighted on the site. Some of it makes me smile, some of it makes me gasp in amazement. I always feel a bit enriched by visiting this site. It is incredible the variety of ways that a vessel can be created.

Susan's other blog, Polymer Clay Notes is just a treasure trove of wonderful inspirations. From pictures, to videos, to links to tutorials or places to play. My kids and I developed a serious addition to the tile making site she posted a while back. For a while my kids were suspecting I was spending way too much time on the internet when I was showing them all these cool sites. But then they found out my source.... I love how Susan finds all sorts of things that are not directly polymer clay related, and yet, they can get those brain cells clicking about possibilities in polymer. And like Cynthia's blog, there is the community of people who visit regularly and send her links.

Another recent favorite was found on the Molymerclay blog. Molly has a link to Christine Kane's blog that has become one of my favorites. Christine is a musician from North Carolina. And she has a great sensibility. Some of my recent favorite posts were the about traveling and delays, and one about mistakes bloggers make . The last one is one I am sure to visit again and again, as I try to learn more about this whole blogging thing! Like what is the html code to use so I don't have to put the links in parentheses in a paragraph, and is there a way I can avoid the messiness of html code?! And what is this whole RSS feed thing about anyway? And don't get me started on stats. For anyone who blogs, this entry is a great read.

Want some studio envy? Cruise on over to Libby Mill's blog and see the pictures she posted of her new studio. Tell me you do not want to work in a space like that? Libby is one lucky lady....but she is a sweetie, and deserves it! Now we want to see pictures of what gets created in that space....hint, hint!

That ought to waste an hour or so of your time! Have fun.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

WIndows and Pictures

Did I mention that we are having windows replaced? This week? Yes. It is true. And tomorrow they will want to venture into my studio to replace the windows in there. I have been promised they will only need about a foot in front of each window for about 30 minutes. Of course it will take me about a day to create that space for them....a day which I do not really have available right now. But somehow we will juggle it all. They are doing a great job, and have done everything I have asked to accomodate my crazy workload so far. So I guess I will need to figure out how to accomodate their work schedule.

With the new wholesale order, I am making cranes, jewelry AND the vessels for the show. All at once. At least it seems that way right now. :-) But I am excited about how some of the vessels have been coming out so I will share a few pictures of those with you.

Both of these pieces were definitely pieces that evolved a lot in the process of creation. The one on the far left has images of insects that I have drawn in the little squares. I have done similar pieces before with floral or leaf patterns, and I figured I would do one with insects. I ran out of steam part way through doing the drawings, and then put it to the side.

After about a week I knew I needed to get back to it and finish it up. So I dug out a great big nature book I have that is full of wonderful pictures of animals, fish, insects, birds, etc. There are more pictures than text. It is a great source of information and inspiration for some of my designs. I found a beetle and a grasshopper to finish up the drawings, and started layering the piece. I was happy with the color blend of copper to purple. I like using color combinations that are not always obvious, but still work. I had planned to just carve out around the squares to backfill, in order to better define those edges. But, as I sat in my comfortable chair that night, doing the drawings on some other pieces I had the idea to do all the scrollwork on the surface, and have the backfilled areas flip the colors of the Skinner blend. So where there is copper on the pear, the scroll pattern is backfilled with violet, and where there is violet, the scrollwork is filled with copper. The pattern seems to fade away in the center and re-emerge on each end. And you've gotta love that violet stem!

The other piece has such a simple concept, circles, but I love the way it came out. The layering really works here to almost create a sense of floating circles. And the colors are perfect for being on the verge of spring in New England.

Back to work.....

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I am sure you have heard about the proverbial grandmother who can't seem to believe that you are full. When you come to dinner, the main conversation from her is "Eat!", as she spoons more food onto your already full plate. Right now, I feel like I have just visited that grandmother.

Yesterday I had two more wonderful opportunities fall into my lap. One is the largest wholesale order I have recieved yet. I am feeling thrilled and worried all at the same time. I have sold less than this much work at some shows. It is wonderful, but the timing is scary. Breathe, Judy. Just breathe,....and get into the studio!

I also received a phone call last night, with a wonderful invitation. As much as I wanted to say "Yes!!" on the spot, I knew I needed to talk with Dave about it. It would mean spending a good chunk of money, and time away from the kids....which affects his schedule. When he got home, he was nearly as excited about it as I was. And said, "You are going to say yes, aren't you?" Have I mentioned lately what a great guy he is?

My head is spinning. My plate is full. But so is my heart and my spirit. I will truly try and enjoy each and every bite of this experience. Who knows when it will come this way again.

Here are a few new pictures for you. The pendants are samples for the wholesale show. The pear vessel reminds me of a cross between a pear and an artichoke! I am happy with how the leaves come up and around the curved form of the pear. The color shifts in the drawings I do under the translucent clay are dramatic in some cases. The rosy color on the pear was dark purple when I did the drawings. The change is dramatic, but I like the way the rose tone goes with the leaves.
Back to work!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Blind Spots

I am, and always have been, better at the big picture than the details. My husband conversely, spends his days carefully reviewing the fine points of contracts. He spends his days at work immersed in details. I would die in that job. It would be sheer torture for me. Yet he excels at it. There is nothing sexy or glamorous about the work he does. But it is work that has helped his company save millions of dollars. For that they are grateful. And when we have a detailed project to work on, I am grateful to have him around.

So it should not be surprising that it was a detail really that escaped my attention. Yet, details do matter. The details can create balance or disturb it. Small details can make a big difference. I was unconsciously just skimming over this detail. Not looking at the effect that it had on the finished piece.

When I began making my pear and apple vessels, I was focused on the process of creating an organic form that was also a vessel. I was focused on the surface design and technique. I was still learning a great deal about that process and making many choices and discoveries with each new piece. I was disciplining myself to really pay attention to finishing. The sanding. The line of the opening of the vessel. But the very last step, was one that I did not pay enough attention to. When it came to putting a stem on the vessel I did not explore many options. I just made a stem to look like a stem, and put it on the piece. My biggest struggle was in engineering the design of the stem to withstand the handling it received at a show.

Then, about five or six weeks ago, another artist shone some light on the stems. She observed something I had never even considered. The stems did not fit the rest of the piece. It was as if I did them as an afterthought. I had these pieces with this fantastical surface, and then a stem that was very ordinary. In her opinion it detracted from the rest of the work. Another person there agreed. Hmmm. This was something I had never even thought about. It was as if I was blind. I was spending many hours on the piece, and then at the very end, I just finished it without really thinking about the impact of my choice on the piece.
I began with the peppers. I started making some new stems for them using wire. I had to agree. It added a life and energy to the piece that the old stems subtracted. These pictures are not great for seeing the detail of the new stems, but I think you can get the general idea of how much the old stems were NOT working, and that the new stems are a definite improvement.
This week I was busy making some new vessels, and finally was faced with putting the stem on a new pear vessel. I had played around with a wire stem for an apple earlier, and it did not work as effectively as it had on the peppers. I decided I would stick with the approach I had with the rest of the piece. The shape would be literal in translation, but the color would not. It was like someone turned on the light in the room. Was I so focused on "being done" with the piece that I did not spend enough time thinking about this detail? Did I not want to think about it much because it was a detail? Whatever the reason, I now could see what Sara saw so clearly. I spent a little more than a day re-stemming vessels. And I have to say the more I did, the more I liked the outcome. Here is a picture for you to judge for yourself.
Doesn't that old stem just look out of place? There is something about the new stem that makes me want to create this whole new story about these vessels. They now look to me as if they were grown by Alice in Wonderland from seeds she brought back from the other side of the looking glass. Alice's Garden.
I am busy taking pictures, and will eventually update my website with the new images. And I am going to sign up for the critique sessions that were in the new catalog from the local museum school that just arrived in the mail. We all have blind spots. I may not be ready to acknowledge all of mine. But I am grateful to Sara that she shone a light on this one. Thanks Sara!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Discussion Continues

The discussion about copying and teaching other's techniques continues in earnest on Polymer Clay Daily blog, and has spilled over to the Polymer Clay Central discussion board. It is interesting that sites on the internet that celebrate this media that is so alive with innovation have also become the site of a discussion about perhaps reining in that creative energy. I was going to add to the discussion on Polymer Clay Daily, but as my comment grew in length, I decided this might be a better place to post my comments.

It seems to me that it goes back to that book, Everything I Ever Needed To Know I Learned in Kindergarten. It is not nice to copy someone else's work. If you borrow something from someone else, ask first and say thank you if they are willing to let you use it. When you do you own work (even if it involves a technique someone else developed) it feels much better. Think before you react. Ask before you assume. (both ways).
Making lists of what is open and what is off-limits, like policing, is an exercise in futility. When does an idea move from the off-limits list to the open for everyone list? A design is never open to everyone to reproduce and sell. But techniques are open to the exploration of all who are intrigued enough to explore them. If I make some canes that are similar to what Sarah Shriver, or Sandra McCaw makes and use them to decorate the surface of one of my cranes, am I infringing on their designs? I don't think so. I am happy to acknowledge their inspiration in the canework. But, if I make earrings or pins like Sandra's, or a bracelet or necklace like Sarah's and try to sell them as my own....I have crossed a line. And it is a place I am not the least bit interested in going.

I am new to polymer clay. I only really began playing with the clay four years ago. Within a week or two I was wondering if I could make a crane out of clay. I persisted, and figured it out. I then went to the internet to see who else might be making them. I couldn't find a thing. I have since heard from a few people that they had folded cranes from clay years ago, but they did not pursue it much further. But people know I am the one who makes cranes out of clay. Should I be the only one who can make them and sell them? Heavens forbid, no!
Cranes have been made from paper for centuries. People have experimented with using other media for origami techniques for many, many years. I have used wire mesh to make a few pieces, and have thought about using fabric. I heard from a woman in Seattle who makes cranes from fabric and sells them at her local farmer's market.

The thing about cranes is that they represent so many wonderful things. Peace first off. And prosperity, long life and fidelity. We can all use these things in our lives. More people, making more cranes will do more good in the world than my trying to police anyone and everyone who decides they also want to fold cranes out of clay. One of these days, when I have five minutes to breathe, I need to figure out how to make a video to teach others how to do origami with polymer clay. Holding on to what I have learned will not help me or anyone else. Sharing our knowledge can help grow the base.

I look at the work of Celie Fago and Louise Fischer Cozzi . Both have taken what they learned from Gwen Gibson (the tear-away technique) and develop their own distinctive designs.

What if Gwen taught this technique but then imposed limits? Certainly these women are creative enough to find some other technique to express themselves with. But clearly this subtle texture created by this process was something that spoke to both of these women. Yet, what each woman did with the process is unique to them. And both readily acknowledge that Gwen was the person who they learned the tear away technique from.

Before we start building fences and making lists we ought to stop and think. Bush may say he is the "decider"...but do we really want to have a "decider" to say what we can and cannot do with this wonderful media?? Common sense, good manners, and a touch of humor and humility will help all of us grow.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Two Shows, Two Approaches

I am intently working to get ready for my two upcoming shows. One retail, and one wholesale. While I am making product for both, there is a different purpose and focus. For one, I am making samples, and for the other, inventory.

When you do a retail show, you make as much inventory as you can, and hope that you will sell much of it. But you are taking a risk as to whether or not the work will sell, or it will be the right work for the audience at that show. But you get to have the immediate feedback from the person who will own the item, or give it as a gift. You get to make the connection on a personal level with them. That can be extremely gratifying.
For the wholesale show, I am making up sample pieces that shops and galleries can order. This has been a big break through for me. I have always had the mindset that my work is one of a kind, and it is not really possible for me to make designs that can be reproduced. But in reality, I can make the same general design again and again, especially with my jewelry. I have done that. I have made quite a few of my koi waterfall pendants. Each one is different, but there is a sense of repetition to them. And there are other designs that I have made many times over.

What I am trying to do is to remove some of the variability. Each piece will still have the images or designs that I draw by hand, but I will not reinvent the wheel each time I make a piece.
Once I made the decision to do this I sat down with a pad of paper, and began drawing out sketches of the designs that I know have done well in the past, and in some cases a few similar but new designs. The flower drawings always do well, so I added a few other varieties of flowers. And I am thinking about the color options to offer in some of the more geometric patterns.
Why do I want to do this? There are several reasons. First it will make it easier for someone to order work from me. They will have a clearer idea of what I have to offer, and what it will look like. They will understand that each piece will still be one of a kind in many ways, but the general design will be repeatable.
I will be able to produce catalogs, and other materials for wholesale inquiries that are more consistent and again the work will have some sense of reproducibility.
And there is the inventory issue. I will not have to have inventory of many, many pieces to post and photograph for my page on I will not have to be constantly updating the pictures. I can make some of the work in advance in anticipation of orders, but I can also make the work to fill orders, as they come in.
My resistance to this in the past came from several places. I think first and foremost is that it takes some confidence in your designs and work to narrow down and focus. To be able to say, these are the pieces I make, and this is the work that people buy most frequently. After two years of retail shows with many of these designs, I can say which work people gravitate towards.
And it will simplify my life. I cannot continue to re-invent the wheel with each and every piece I make. I will still draw and color in each piece by hand. I love to draw, and I do not want to lose this part of the process. I feel like I put a bit more of me into each piece this way. I believe that part of what makes handcrafted work special is the energy that the artist transfers to the work in the process of creation. By holding onto these steps that I love, I will infuse more positive energy into each piece than if I were to create drawings and then transfer them onto the clay with other techniques. I have tried this. I have tried to do things with efficiency in mind. In the end, I am never as happy with the outcome as when I just do the drawings.
With Crafts Boston less than three weeks away, it may seem insane to be trying to create samples for my wholesale show now. Why not wait until after the show is over, and spend next month doing it? Well, there is the time line. I need to make samples, to photograph, to create a catalog, which needs to be printed, shipped to me, and then have some of those shipped out to Las Vegas. Ideally, I need to have everything shipped to arrive in Las Vegas by April 24th.
I am also trying to design my booth for the ACRE show. I will be renting much of my booth set-up instead of shipping my booth. In the long run, I think this is the best option for me. So I need to be deciding what I need to order, and putting those orders into the system within the next few weeks.
I can wait till after Crafts Boston for some tasks. Like creating an order form. I have already sent my mailing list and images into for the postcards. I am waiting for the stickers to arrive from Crafts Boston to do my mailing for that show. Can you see why it pays to have that mailing list ready to go?
So, if you don't hear from me for a few days, you will know why! I have an Art Salon meeting tomorrow. I am looking forward to that time with this great group of artists. Then there are doctors and dentist appointments on the calendar for next week, and all the usual activities to chauffeur the kids to during the week. I will try to squeeze in a few posts here and there to share with you some of what happens as I travel along these two paths simultaneously.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Another Ball Gets Thrown in the Air

I just got off the phone with Sadie from The Society for Arts and Crafts in Boston. They run the wonderful show, Crafts Boston, each spring. This is a show that really pushes the line between art and craft. One where you walk around in awe of the ideas that people come up with. I am off the waitlist, and I will be doing the show in the mixed media category! Can you see me doing the happy dance??!

Of course this means I will be living a sleep optional life for the next two months. I was just really beginning to focus on all the tasks I need to get done before the ACRE wholesale show next month in Las Vegas. Now I need to cram one more thing into the "to do" list. But to say "no" to this opportunity is something I could not possible do. It is a wonderful chance to get some exposure for my work, and continue to learn more about the best places and ways to sell my work.

Okay, time to get into the studio and printing out mailing list labels, and figuring out the many details involved in doing a show.... I check back with you and let you know more about this whole process.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Just Ask

Donna Kato has started a lively, and important discussion on her blog about copycats and those who teach what others have taught them. The discussion has spilled over to Cynthia Tinapple's blog, Polymer Clay Daily , and a lively discussion is ensuing in the comments section to her post.

I had written before about how easy it is to be sucked into the trap of being overly influenced by the work of another artist, and how Kathleen Dustin had taught me the depth of surface technique I use with my jewelry and vessels. I used to worry tremendously that people would think I was trying to copy her work. As much as I adore the work she does, doing the same thing she does would feel hollow compared to figuring out what I could do with the process. The more I explore the process the less worried I am about my work creating any confusion.

I wrote the other day about the article in Belle Armoire Jewelry featuring one of my necklaces. This whole discussion about teaching what others have taught resurrects my experience with this article. Here's the back story about that article.....

When I submitted the jewelry, I assumed that it would be more of a gallery presentation. If I had looked carefully at the previous issue, I would have seen this was wrong.
When the editor contacted me to tell me my work was accepted for the magazine I was ecstatic. But, when the email continued that they wanted a article that explained how to make the piece I suddenly was not so sure that this was going to happen. The design is my own. But the technique borrows heavily from what I had learned from Kathleen. She continues to teach this process. I have never wanted to venture into that territory. It belongs to her.

I emailed Kathleen. I outlined the situation, and described my suggested solution. She was very gracious in agreeing to my going ahead with the article and made one suggestion, which I was more than willing to incorporate. Beyond what we agreed to, I added the suggestion that anyone who wanted to learn more about the process should take a class with Kathleen, and her website address. Kathleen's class is a weekend long, intensive class. It is not one that can truly be learned in a two page article, without pictures or diagrams.

I hope that others do not look at what I did and see someone who is trying to rip off the hard work and reputation of someone who is so admired. It has made me think about where I submit my work in the future. I don't want to find myself in this situation again.

I am glad that Donna has opened up this discussion. It is one that is needed from time to time. I had seen listing for the class in question, and did a double take when I saw the instructor. It is unfortunate that Donna was not consulted in this case. I hope that if and when you find yourself in this situation you honor your teachers. They deserve it. And you will sleep better in the end.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Loose Ends

I have been playing a bit today. Trying to bring a few projects to closure, and just playing. One of the things I was playing with is one-inch squares. If you follow some the mixed media activity, one-inch squares are the latest thing since ATC's.

ATC's, for those who have not stumbled across them yet are Artist Trading Cards. They started out with artists creating small works of art; drawings, paintings, etc., on a playing card. So they were a standard size, perfect for trading and collecting. They have branched into many other media including polymer clay. We had an ATC swap at the Klay Karma retreat in 2005, and it was a big hit. Trading of ATC's in all sorts of media continues to be active.

One inch squares are just what they sound like. One inch squares decorated in a variety of ways. Usually when they are traded, they are traded in batches of ten or one hundred. The idea is to have a large enough collection to group them together in some sort of presentation.

So I decided to spend some time just playing with one-inch squares. I have lots of remnants of clay left when I am making cranes, so it was easy for me to come up with a nice assortment of squares. After curing them I had to decide what to do with them. I had a shadow box that would have been perfect....but last week that went to the masks I received in Sarajane Helm's miniature mask swap. (

Looking around the studio I found a few of those wide framed mirrors from IKEA. The mirror is probably only 4 inches square. But it has a big wide frame. Perfect. I covered the frame with black clay. Gave it a bit of texture and cured it, and then mounted the squares on the black clay. I finished it with a few smaller, textured squares around the edge. Pretty cool, huh?

There was a method to my madness, besides just playing of course. For those of you who are going to be going to Klay Karma 2007 in New Hampshire, in July, we are looking at doing a one inch square swap. Formally and informally. We have not finalized the details of the swap yet, but if you heading to the retreat this summer, it is not too soon to start thinking about what you might do on your one-inch squares. Texture? Mokume gane? Faux? Millefiore? Start thinking, and we will fill you in on the details later.

I will not be at the retreat this year. I will be doing the Guilford Craft Expo that weekend in Guilford, CT. I was excited to get into the show, but disappointed that it was going to conflict with the retreat. But I am working on the committee planning the event. So at least I will know what I am missing!

Friday, March 2, 2007

New Article

I sent my husband to the store last night on the way home from work. Not for milk or bread or any of the usual things. No. This time I wanted him to pick up the latest copy of Belle Armoire Jewelry.

I had one of those days yesterday that was spent mostly of it in the car with the kids. I never left town, but I also never seemed to be far from the car! One daughter was having a tough day, which meant she was taking it out on me. I needed something to get me out of my funk. I knew the new issue of Belle Armoire Jewelry was coming out, and I was supposed to have an article in it. I had not recieved my copy yet, so I was not absolutely certain. One of the things you learn about having articles published, is that like anything in life, things do not always go according to plan. So I was anxiously checking the mailbox looking to see if a copy was there.

My husband can be such a sweetheart about these things. Not only did he go to the store to get me a copy, he checked the website for the magazine to see where they sold it, and called to make sure they had it. They reserved a copy for him. And when he got there he found my article and showed it to the person in the store. She proceeded to gush over the article, and show everyone else in the store. Can you see my cheeks and neck reddening??

I was thrilled to see the article and the beautiful photography. And, I was also happy to see that 13 (I counted!) of the pieces/articles in the magazine included polymer clay and/or silver clay, the two media I use. Both media are infants in the world of art/craft. Neither has been around long enough to have anything really approaching a "tradition". But for me, that is part of the appeal I suppose. There are far less rules and standards. Experimentation is everywhere, and the creative energy is contagious. Both communities share readily as they learn and grow with the material. I suppose it can be dangerous as well, because it is easy to think about something else that could be tried out.

If you enjoy making or collecting jewelry, this is a great magazine. The photography is beautiful. The paper is nice heavy quality stock. And the work is inspiring. I will be spending many hours leafing through the magazine and taking in the creative energy.

But not for at least a few days. Remember the mailing list post. I have to get my mailing list in for that wholesale show. And the photography for the postcards. Deadlines are coming up for several applications. And I just got my shipment of silver clay so I can get back to work on a new idea...... Bye for now. I have a daughter to get off to school, and work to do.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Fighting My Way Back

While I wrote about feeling younger these days in my last post, the outside is not feeling so young. Way too many pounds have been added on to my body in the last 10 to 15 years. I have had my list of rationalizations.

Pregnancy: 5 pregnancies, 30 months in 4 years, 2 kids
Time: Kids, running a business, life
Depression: After my dad died in 2000 I went into the worst depression of my life. Ingest chocolate. Add 50 pounds.

I got out of the habit of exercising. I started to be afraid to start again. It would be hard. It would feel uncomfortable. What would I do? Time and money constraints impose some limitations. Add to that bum knees, and some arthritis, and the options narrow.

Well, I am shifting my thinking. I was writing about this the other night and came to some important insights. First, it will never be any easier to get started than it is right now. Second, I have to let go of the judgement. Yes I am overweight and I am not a pretty picture exercising. But who cares. Carrying around the judgement is like carrying around an added burden. I just need to put it down and walk away. I will not ever be able to get fit and enjoy that state if I continue to judge myself so harshly. Finally, all I have to do is move. It does not matter so much what I do, as that I do something!

I have found a dance exercise show on my cable company's On Demand programming. It is Latin dancing. I am tripping over my own feet but, the music is fun. The woman teaching the class is wonderful. Her positive energy is contagious. I want to exercise when she is on. I feel good when I am done. That wonderful energized calm that I remember from years past.

So why am I sharing this? Well, this morning it occurred to me that this process I am going through with exercise can apply to so many other things in life that we procrastinate about. The creative blocks that holds many of us back at times.

Some times the most valuable lessons in our lives are from our struggles. Things which come easy are our gifts. But they do not teach us as much, or help us grow as much as our struggles can.

So here are the rules:
It will never be any easier to do than it is today.
Put down the judgement and walk away. Leave it behind.
Just move. (or create, or whatever it is that you need to do.)

Three rules. That is is. They are my mantra right now. I hope they can help you in some way.